Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation : Vol. 25, No. 2, p. 459-510 : Wildlife Jurisprudence
Historically, wildlife have not had independent standing in the legal system. Rather, the legal system has presumed that wildlife are available for use and consumption by humans, thus their lower legal status as “things.” But as this Article explores, human views toward wildlife have recently been evolving. It is time to take full measure of where wildlife presently stand within the realm of jurisprudence, as well as what is possible for the future. As humanity comes to accept that we share this earth with other species as part of a global community, and that an ethical duty exists toward wildlife, the necessity of change within jurisprudence becomes stronger. The historical human attitude of unlimited consumption of wildlife, or even the more benign attitude of live and let live—do no harm—is unsupportable in a world of seven billion human beings who possess an ever-increasing appetite for the consumption of material goods. The ecosystems of the Earth are being destroyed at a historically alarming rate. Assuming a level of ethical duty toward wildlife, it is clear that to fulfill our obligations toward wildlife, humans must adopt an agenda that goes beyond a passive attempt to save existing ecosystems. This duty supports an obligation to both protect and actively restore the ecosystems where wildlife live. The realization of these goals should be accomplished by allowing wildlife an enhanced presence in the legal system and by making their interests more visible when humans make decisions impacting wildlife and their habitat. The enhanced presence of wildlife on the stage of jurisprudence will give greater weight to their interests in the everyday balancing of interests that is the bread and butter of the legal process.